At the end of 2021, Disney’s Magical Express will be discontinued and will conclude its service to and from Orlando International Airport. As of this writing, Disney has yet to announce their own replacement program that will shuttle guests from the airport to their resort hotel, but Mears, the company that operated Magical Express, has announced what they will provide.
Mears Connect will launch right after Magical Express is discontinued, so it’s important to get the rundown on what exactly this new service is, how it’s similar to Magical Express, and how it’s different!
Let’s remember why Mears Connect is here in the first place!
Mears Connect isn’t just a new service for guests looking to travel to Disney World from Orlando International Airport — as of January 1st, 2022, for many guests it will be one of the ONLY ways you can travel between Disney World and the airport (without having to rent a car or hunt down a rideshare or taxi), since Disney’s Magical Express is suspending its service.
Did you know in Florida it’s legal for a child to ride on a bus without using a car seat/booster seat? For many families, this was an appealing aspect of Magical Express that will be lost when the service goes away. Renting a car or using a rideshare means potentially struggling with bringing or renting car seats or finding a rideshare that can accommodate you to make sure you can properly restrain your child. Mears Connect could possibly be a more stress-free solution for families with younger children.
Shortly after it was announced that Disney’s Magical Express would be discontinued, Mears, who was the operator of Magical Express, announced that they would continue to provide transportation to and from Orlando International Airport.
So, what exactly is Mears Connect, and what is it NOT? Let’s dive into the important details so you know exactly how your Disney World vacations may change in 2022 and beyond!
So, what exactly IS Mears Connect?
Debuting on January 1st, 2022, Mears Connect is the official Mears-operated replacement service for Disney’s Magical Express.
And guess what? You can book Mears Connect NOW if you have a 2022 trip! However, before you book, let’s take a detailed look at the similarities and differences to Magical Express.
How is it SIMILAR to Magical Express?
Mears Connect will provide the same essential service as Disney’s Magical Express: ground transportation to get you to and from Orlando International Airport during your Disney World vacation. No matter which Disney World owned-and operated-hotel you’re staying in, Mears Connect will get you there!
The timing of Mears Connect will be similar to Magical Express for your return trip to the airport as well. Standard service will pick you up from your hotel for a trip to the airport up to three (3) hours prior to your flight departure time for domestic flights, and up to four (4) hours prior for international flights.
So, the basics are definitely the same between these two bus services, but the similarities kind of end there! This won’t look or feel exactly like what Magical Express was, not to mention that you’ll have to BUDGET for ground transportation from now on if you’re planning on using Mears Connect (more on that in a sec!).
How is it DIFFERENT from Magical Express?
One of the big differences guests may notice right away is what will likely be a lack of “Disney” theming aboard Mears Connect. While the website does state that there will be “entertainment for you and your party while you ride,” we wouldn’t expect those iconic Magical Express buses and the perfectly times in-transit videos to be around anymore.
There are additional hotels being serviced by Mears Connect! In addition to the Disney owned-and operated-hotels, guests can use Mears Connect to travel to the Disney Springs area hotels, the Four Seasons, the Gaylord Palms, Bonnet Creek, Shades of Green, and more!
We reached out to Mears Connect regarding baggage retrieval, and we were told that “you will retrieve your luggage from baggage claim and bring it to our reception area to board your vehicle to your resort. We are looking into other options, more to come!” So, it sounds like your luggage may no longer “magically” appear in your hotel room upon arrival; you may have to retrieve it yourself from baggage claim. Mears Connect’s website does note, however, that they are “exploring luggage service and will send an update to all interested and already reserved guests if and when it’s available.”
If you’re familiar with Magical Express (pre-COVID), guests would receive yellow tags in the mail shortly before their trip. You’d stick these tags on any bags you want Disney to take care of and, after getting off your plane at MCO, would simply head straight to the Magical Express — no need to get your luggage from baggage claim. You’d be reunited with your bags in your hotel room later. This was a perk of Magical Express many will be sad to lose.
There are also TWO options for Mears Connect: Standard and Premium. Note: Premium is now being referred to as “Express” service.
Standard will feature shared transportation aboard a motorcoach bus and will feature monitored wait times. Premium will offer direct service with limited wait times. The final, and perhaps the biggest difference, is that Mears Connect will not be complimentary like Magical Express.
Click here to read about the current status of the OTHER replacement ground transportation option in the works at Disney World!
Will Mears Connect cost anything?
Yes! The other major difference between Magical Express and Mears Connect is that Mears is NOT offering a complimentary service. There are two price levels travelers can choose from: Standard and Premium.
Standard service will cost $32 per adult and $27 per child (ages 3-9) for round trip service. A one-way standard service trip right now costs $16 per adult and $13.50 per child. So let’s take a family of four, which includes two adults and two kids. A round trip service using the standard option with Mears Connect would cost this family $118, while a one-way standard service trip would cost this family $59.
Premium service, meanwhile, costs a bit more. Premium service costs $200 round trip for up to four (4) people. Additional guests cost another $55 each. For the extra costs, premium service includes a limited wait time as well as direct service to your hotel. Mears’ graphic also implies that Premium service may be offered in a smaller vehicle like a van or private car, but that hasn’t been officially announced at this time. Premium is only being offered for round trip service at this time.
UPDATE: Premium service is now being referred to as “Express Service.” Additionally the price for this service has increased from $200 round trip to $250 round trip for up to 4 passengers. Each additional passenger is still $55.
Keep in mind that these are introductory rates, which may change as we get closer to the service launching in January. Prices may also vary based on date, the number of people in your party, and the location to which you are traveling.
It’s clear that there are some major changes coming your way if your Disney World vacations always included a trip aboard Magical Express! Here are some of the key takeaways to keep in mind:
- If you are staying at Disney owned- and operated-hotel, ground transportation to and from the airport will no longer be included by Disney in your vacation. You will need to plan to book and pay for Mears Connect separately. Or consider other options, like renting a car, using a rideshare, a taxi service, or perhaps even booking a limo ride.
- You will be responsible for collecting your own luggage, so add that time into your arrival plan and coordinate that with your travel party and your vacation itinerary.
- With Mears Connect also providing service to other hotels and resorts in the Disney area, your travel time to your hotel may get a bit longer, unless you pay extra for the Premium service. So you’ll need to take that into account if you have any dining reservations or immediate plans on your arrival day. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time between when your flight touches down and when you can realistically arrive for your dining reservation.
While bus transportation will still be an option to bring you to and from the airport, it will now come with a fee and may have a little less “Disney” in its theming. If Magical Express was something that your family relied on, just be aware that you’ll now need to budget for ground transportation! We’ll keep an eye on the rollout of Mears Connect this January, as well as any alternate transportation options in the works!
There are even more BIG changes on the way to Disney World in the coming months! Click here to learn more.
Join the DFB Newsletter to get all the breaking news right in your inbox! Click here to Subscribe!
Will you pay to use Mears Connect on your next Disney World vacation? Let us know in the comments!